City Sports Report

Coach Mike Krzyzewski reflects on winning 2010 Houston Regional, prepares for repeat in 2015

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Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski reflects on the 2010 team winning Houston regional, discusses the growth of Justise Winslow, and more in preparation for game against Utah.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Obviously we’re ecstatic to be here. We’re in good health. We’re going to have our short practice so you’ll be able to see all of our guys if you want to see them and — but our guys are excited. We know we’re going to play against an outstanding team tomorrow night, very efficient team on both ends of the court, very deep. Larry has done a great job with not just his team but in four short years in his program to get them from 6-25 to where they’re one of the Top 10 to 15 teams in the country, I think, is pretty spectacular. Any questions that you might have.

Q. Mike, you won the Regional here in 2010 on your way to the National Championship. Any particularly memories of this weekend or the Baylor game or anything stick out or jump back to you coming back to Houston?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You know, it was great because we won, and the thing that sticks out I told my team that when we were here in ’10, we — there were like two wars. We played Purdue and that was such a tough game. They’re so good, so tough, and obviously playing Baylor who is so talented and tough, we literally earned the right to go to the Final Four, and my point with my team was hopefully we’ll be in two games and hopefully we’ll be as tough, but in order to get to the second game, you’re going to have to win a heck of a game and that’s how we feel going into Utah.

Q. First of all, your thoughts about Justise’s growth under you, and the second part, how special is it for you to be able to bring him back to Houston in his home town to play here at this level?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah. We recruited Justise for a long time and well worth it. Justise really fits all the categories to the top degree of what you would want for us in our program at Duke. Just characterize an amazing kid. Comes from a terrific family. His mom is one of the really special ladies we’ve had a chance to become friends with over these 40 years that I’ve been in coaching and that’s good and his dad is a good guy, don’t get me wrong. His mom is a real special lady. He’s an elite athlete. He went to one of the best schools in the country at St. John’s and he’s really just taken all three of those categories, character, basketball, and academics, and has developed so much. It was interesting for me to hear him say he just finished the best — he’s in the midst of the best year of his life. I love that because I know that’s not just basketball. As a player he’s going to continue to develop. He’s had some injuries this year and he’s learned the play little bit under a hundred percent at times and still perform well. I’m proud of him. I’m happy that he has the chance here to play at home, hopefully he gets a chance to play two games at home.

Q. With Justise getting so much attention, do you have to talk to him about kind of with fans coming in and everything, a lot of eyes on him? Do you have to talk to him about the expectations or anything like that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we talk to all of our guys as we move long during the season. With Justise, just the fact that we’re there to help him, you know — as the tournament moves along, you get more requests and more friends and more acquaintances and just everybody in the tournament has that. To actually then come home kind of ramps that up a little bit more. The best thing is that his family wants him to just concentrate on basketball. Robin has done a great job of always saying it’s his moment, it’s not our moment to be in with him and we’re good, let him have his moment, and so I’m not worried about that. I think everything — if we don’t win, it won’t be because he didn’t handle distractions well. I hate to use the word “distractions” when friends and family are trying to reconnect. It’s just more activity, there’s more activity. I would never say that his family is a distraction or his friends are distractions.

Q. This is also the home town of Rasheed Sulaimon. Are you able to elaborate yet on the reasons he’s no longer —
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Rasheed is no longer a member of our team. It’s more appropriate to talk about the team that’s here. Thank you.

Q. Coach, what are the greatest challenges Utah presents, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, their department?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yes. It’s all those things. That’s why they’re a heck of a team. In Wright you have one of the best guards in the country and he makes everybody better, both offensively and defensively. Poeltl is a rising star. Bachynski and Olsen, they have big guys who can play and their shooting is amazing. I love the kid Taylor. I think he’s just a knockdown shooter and tough kid. They put a lot of pressure on you because they can score from all — all their kids can score, and then you have that point guard who has great vision, 6-5, handles it well and wants to pass first but obviously can score, too. Pretty good chemistry on that team.

Q. Coach, do you recall Larry said the first time he met you in a 7-Eleven in Las Vegas.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I usually am not in 7-Elevens in Vegas. I’m usually at the Wynn doing something if they had a 7-Eleven. I’m not saying it didn’t — I would never diss another Polish-American. Probably give him our secret handshake. I’m not going to tell you what it is. Admire what Larry has done. Actually he was on my Sirius XM show about a month ago, I think. His interview, his conversation was amazing. His background and how he’s gotten to where he is right now, just a really incredible guy and I know the kids on his team benefit greatly from having a coach like him.

Q. You kind of got into what I was going to ask you about. One of the things he talked about when y’all were speaking on the show, you had kind of told him when you were starting at Duke it is not what it is now. What did you tell him and what do you see as kind of comparisons there?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think he took — well, he took over a program where it had to be rebuilt but has had great tradition. Utah over the years, come on, it’s one of the top 15, probably winningest programs in the history of college basketball, you know. Great, great tradition there. But I think the similarity was that we had great ADs and Utah has a great AD and has had one for a long time and that he was going to get support and commitment and Larry said that. So they were a team and as a result, they’re benefiting greatly from it and I like that. I admire that teamwork and that’s not alive and well as much in college sports as it is today — as it was a long time ago.

Q. Mike, someone who has built a program over the years and instilled a culture of family in that program, how impressed are you with Mark Few built consistently at Gonzaga?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Mark is a great friend, also. He’s one of the top coaches and a really good guy. He doesn’t take himself seriously. We just found out something about him that I didn’t know, that I’m not sure any of us coaches can do, and that’s a handstand. My guys, I hope they didn’t see that. They expect me to do that. He’s just a good guy. He’s given back to USA Basketball, humble. Can’t say enough about him. He’s really a great role model for coaches who are trying to develop and does not take himself too seriously. He wants his players to have the spotlight, which I admire in him.

Q. Coach, it seems like Duke’s defense really improved through the first rounds of the tournament, specifically in terms of team communication. How much of an emphasis did you put on to communication coming into the tournament?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We do the entire year. I think there are three things, and I don’t think I — I know there are three things I try to establish with every group. It’s an offensive system, a defensive system and a communication system, and the communication system makes the other two systems better. And it takes awhile especially with having four freshmen and three of them are starters, because they have to go through the process of thinking things. In other words, you’re learning so you’re trying to get it, and it’s tough to share something you’re trying to get until you get it. And as the season has gone along, they’ve gotten it and now they share it more. We talk more to one another. Our veterans, especially Quinn, has been instrumental in bringing that about, but Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson, although he’s only a sophomore, Matt Jones who is from Texas was coached by one of the great defensive coaches in high school, one of the great coaches, a great defensive coach. Those four guys have really helped our guys develop communication. We have progressively gotten better because we’re — we got eight guys and four of them are freshmen. They’re a great group. They keep improving, and I hope we can win tomorrow night and play Sunday, and then and I think we would have improved here. I love my team. This has been just a great group of kids.

Q. Coach, the team that you brought here five years ago was an older team. They had played together a lot more than this one. What are the challenges of bringing a more inexperienced team to this tournament?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we have the experience of having played a great schedule winning over 30 games and being in some very difficult situations, you know, like we were at Wisconsin, playing at Louisville, 2-2 in the conference. At Virginia they’re undefeated and we’re 4-3 in the conference to play at North Carolina, to play at NC State, at Notre Dame and at Syracuse, you grow up being in those situations, and for the most part they were successful in those situations. My team in 2010 had a lot of young guys on it, but the starting five were three seniors and two juniors who were pretty hardened and they got it. This team isn’t like that. They’re still — that team was who it was going to be, which was really good. This team is still becoming, I think, and hopefully we’re good enough tomorrow night to win and advance.

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